SEC: Bear Bryant

SEC lunchtime links

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
Plenty going on as spring practices continue in the SEC. We have pro days, coaching talk, players adapting to new positions and even reality TV news in today's lunch links:

Iron Bowl stakes have never been higher

November, 25, 2013

Good luck finding a rivalry in college football as deep-rooted, passion-filled and polarizing in one state as the Iron Bowl.

Alabama and Auburn get it on every year in late November, and they spend the remaining 364 days in that state reliving the game.

It’s not just football. It’s life.

And while it’s a rivalry that has spawned scores of legendary names, games, moments and memories, it has been a while since an Iron Bowl has meant more for both sides going into the game than the one that will be played Saturday afternoon on the Plains.

[+] EnlargeJordan-Hare Stadium
Elsa Hasch/Getty ImagesThe anticipation for Saturday's Iron Bowl on The Plains is palpable.
It’s only the second time in Iron Bowl history that both teams have been ranked in the top five nationally. Alabama is No. 1 and Auburn No. 4 in the latest BCS standings.

The only other time came in 1971, when Alabama entered the game No. 3 in the Associated Press poll and Auburn was No. 5. The Crimson Tide rolled the Tigers and Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan 31-7 that day to capture the SEC championship.

The buildup to that game was obviously huge, especially with both teams being unbeaten and Sullivan being announced as the Heisman winner on Thanksgiving night, two days before the game.

The same goes for the 1989 game, which was the first Iron Bowl to be played at Auburn. Previously, the game had always been played in Birmingham at Legion Field, and there are a lot of Auburn people who will tell you that there will never be a more important game in the series for them than that 1989 affair.

Of course, it helped that the Tigers beat the No. 2 Crimson Tide 30-20 in Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium to earn a share of the SEC championship along with Alabama and Tennessee.

One of the strangest Iron Bowls was played in 1993, when Auburn was on probation after being hit with NCAA sanctions. The game couldn’t be shown on television. So other than those at Jordan-Hare Stadium that day, the only people who saw Auburn's 22-14 win were the 40,000 or so fans who watched the game on closed-circuit television at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Alabama’s campus. Auburn's victory completed an 11-0 season under first-year coach Terry Bowden.

The game in 2010 will go down as the most electrifying comeback in the series. Cam Newton and Auburn rallied from 24 points down to win 28-27 in Tuscaloosa and save the Tigers’ national championship season.

Legendary names on both sides have left their mark in this series.

Ken Stabler's Run in the Mud in 1967 will never be forgotten, nor will Bo Jackson's going over the top in 1982 to beat Alabama in what was Bear Bryant’s last Iron Bowl.

Perhaps the most stunning finish came in the 1972 Punt, Bama, Punt game. Auburn's Bill Newton blocked a pair of punts in the fourth quarter and both were returned for touchdowns by David Langner to give Auburn a 17-16 win over No. 2 Alabama.

It’s hard to find a more thrilling game than the 1985 classic. Van Tiffin booted a 52-yard field goal in the closing seconds to give Alabama a 25-23 win. There were four lead changes in the fourth quarter alone.

So as we try to put into perspective where Saturday’s game ranks in the annals of this storied rivalry, we could go on endlessly talking about the memorable players, plays and games that the Iron Bowl has provided.

But in terms of stakes for both teams, I’m not sure we’ve seen anything quite like this.

Alabama is chasing history and looking for a third straight national championship, something that hasn’t happened in the modern era.

Imagine the thrill for Auburn to be able to end the Crimson Tide’s historic run right there on the Plains, especially when you consider the way Auburn was reeling this time a year ago.

The Tigers were putting a miserable 3-9 season to bed in which they closed out their SEC schedule with a 38-0 blowout loss to Georgia and an even more lopsided 49-0 loss to Alabama.

Now, a year later, here they are going toe-to-toe with Alabama, with the SEC’s Western Division title on the line. Not only that, but Auburn could thrust itself right into the middle of the national championship picture with a win, especially if Florida State or Ohio State stumbles in these next two weeks.

For a rivalry that has given college football junkies just about everything we could ask for over the years (and then some), this game Saturday might be the most anticipated yet because of what it means to both sides.

Let’s hope the game can match the stakes.

Celebrating Bear Bryant's 100th birthday

September, 11, 2013

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A little more than half an hour before kickoff of every Alabama home game, the leathery visage of the legendary coach of the Crimson Tide, the late Paul W. "Bear" Bryant, appears on the video boards at either end of Bryant-Denny Stadium and begins to speak. And before all of those games when the university has played the video, no one has ever heard what Bryant says. The minute the 101,000 fans see him, they begin roaring.

"Well, the older people are," said Paul W. Bryant Jr., "and the younger ones don't know quite what the rest of them are talking about."

Time silences our heroes, robs us of them and then steals the witnesses who can tell the hero's story, and the day comes when all we have left are statues and houndstooth beach balls. Stories can be handed down, books can be written, movies produced. But the emotions that connect player to coach, or fan to hero, are not easily handed down from one generation to the next. Legends may not be kept in a cedar chest in the attic.

The flesh-and-blood Bear, the all-too-human man who inspired the fealty and worship of thousands, who coaxed and bullied and demanded that his players and his assistants meet a standard they didn't know they could meet, is disappearing. He has been dead for three decades, and as those who stood witness to him die, we are losing Bryant again.

Forgive the personal nature of this story. For those of us who grew up in Alabama in a time when our state was viewed as a cauldron of hatred, Bryant told the rest of the nation that we could produce success and character. He inspired a level of loyalty unlike any coach before or since in any state in any sport.

I can tell you where I was the day he died, and not just because it was my 23rd birthday. I know where I was because that was the first time a death ever made me cry. The notion that he is just a football coach to the 80 million millennials estimated to live in the United States makes me want to cry again.

Gene Stallings played for Bryant, coached for him, coached against him, and eventually became the first coach after Bryant to lead Alabama to a national championship.

"One of the reasons of his great success over an extended period of time was, we all wanted to please Coach Bryant," Stallings said. "The players wanted to please him. The assistant coaches wanted to please him. The alumni wanted to please him. The administration wanted to please him. The president of the university -- Coach Bryant just had that little something about him that people wanted to please. We'll do anything just to hear Coach Bryant say, 'You did a good job.' He didn't say it too often. But we wanted him to say it.

"You know, there was a little fear factor, and I don't think there's anything wrong with fear factor….whether or not you were doing your job well enough to please Coach Bryant."

Stallings is 78 years old. Bryant's players are just as likely to be grandfathers as fathers. His youngest players, the freshmen on that 1982 team, are getting solicitations from AARP.

"Some of my teammates and I were talking about this two or three weeks ago," said Ronny Robertson, who played for Bryant in the mid-1970s and is the senior associate athletic director for development at his alma mater. "When we were at Alabama and playing for Coach Bryant, there was this guy at Notre Dame that coached a long time ago named Knute Rockne, and he was a real good football coach. That's about the way I think the kids today look at Coach Bryant."

Bryant died suddenly, four weeks after he coached the final game of his 25-year career at his alma mater. Bryant was 69 years old, according to the calendar, and much older than that according to a body worn down by stress and illness, by late hours and lifestyle.

Today, on what would have been Bryant's 100th birthday, the university will hold a ceremony at the Paul W. Bryant Museum on campus. Alabama also commissioned a documentary, "Mama Called," and a book, "Inside the Vault: The Paul W. Bryant Collection," that will make their debuts today, too. Bryant's centennial falls during the week in which No. 6 Texas A&M, where Bryant coached for four seasons, will play host to his alma mater, the No. 1 Crimson Tide. On Friday night in College Station, players he coached at both schools will gather to celebrate his memory.

To read more of Ivan Maisel's legacy of Bear Bryant, click here.

Bryant's life in pictures Photo Gallery.

A look at Bryant's legacy living on in Houndstooth fashion.

SEC lunchtime liinks

September, 11, 2013
Today marks legendary coach Bear Bryant's 100th birthday. Considering his ties to Alabama's and Texas A&M programs -- I don't know if you've heard, but they're playing each other this weekend -- it seems fitting that we include one story about Bryant in today's links.

Here's that story and more from around the league as we move toward the third Saturday of the season:

On Bear Bryant's 100th birthday, here are 100 Bryant facts you might not know.

Those at Texas A&M expect a silent Johnny Manziel to shine in Saturday's rematch with Alabama.

With several players returning from suspension, Texas A&M's defense has Alabama coach Nick Saban's attention.

Buy or sell: Is LSU an SEC title contender this season?

To stop Ole Miss' read option, players can't take time to think.

Oregon's up-tempo offense will test Tennessee's defensive rotation on Saturday.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier accepts the blame for loss to Georgia.

Auburn's play cards have a purpose behind their amusing pop-culture references.

Georgia's Todd Gurley II is making a name for his family.

Kentucky decides two quarterbacks are better than one.

Facing an open date this Saturday, Florida must wait an extra week for redemption after a loss to Miami.

Arkansas running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams have been razor sharp so far.

Swagger returns to the Mississippi State defense.

Countdown to SEC kickoff: 24 days

August, 5, 2013
If you were naming the two most influential head coaches in SEC football history, Bear Bryant and Steve Spurrier would be right there at the top of the list.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that they rank 1-2 in terms of all-time SEC wins. Bryant is No. 1, but Spurrier has closed the gap.

Could the Head Ball Coach make a run at Bryant’s record? It’s a pretty gaudy number, indeed: 159.
It’s hard to fathom that anybody will ever break Bryant’s record of 159 SEC wins. First of all, what coach is going to survive long enough in this league to win that many games? Now, a 10-year run is an eternity. But even if a coach were to last 20 years in the SEC, he still would not get to 159 wins if he averaged seven wins a year. Even if he lasted 25 years, he wouldn’t get there averaging six wins a year. The Bear set a dizzying standard, for sure. That said, Spurrier enters the 2013 season with 122 SEC wins. Like Bryant, he has coached at two different SEC schools. Bryant won 22 games in eight seasons at Kentucky and 137 games in 25 seasons at Alabama. Spurrier won 87 games in 12 seasons at Florida, and he’s won 35 games in eight seasons at South Carolina. Spurrier, who will turn 69 in April, insists that he’s not going to coach long enough to catch Bryant. “If I wanted to go after those records, I would have stayed at Florida,” Spurrier quipped. Nonetheless, anybody who really knows Spurrier knows that he’s not going to walk away as long he’s still winning big and the Gamecocks are regular contenders in the East race. He’s serious about winning an SEC championship and genuinely thinks he can do it at South Carolina before heading to the golf course full time (and making his playing partners putt out every single putt -- even the two-footers). But to get there, Spurrier would almost certainly have to coach at least six more years to have a chance. Even then, he’d have to average a little more than six wins a year to get there. The game-changer could be if the SEC goes to nine conference games beginning in 2016. Spurrier may be the last coach who has any hope of catching Bryant. Even with all the national championships Nick Saban has racked up, he’s sitting at 71 SEC wins. If Saban, who turns 62 in October, coached 12 more years and averaged seven wins per year, he’d still fall short. Mark Richt has 69 SEC wins and Les Miles 49 SEC wins. So unless the Head Ball Coach has something to say about it, 159 may truly be an untouchable number in the SEC.

Countdown to SEC kickoff: 29 days

July, 31, 2013
If you’re consistently getting to double-digit wins in the SEC, that’s some pretty rarified air.

How rarified? Here’s a number to chew on as we continue to count down the days to the 2013 season: 11.
Only two schools in the SEC -- Alabama and South Carolina -- have won 11 or more games each of the last two seasons. In fact, nationally, only five FBS teams can make that claim. Boise State, Oregon and Stanford are the other three. The last school in the SEC to win 11 or more games in three straight seasons was LSU in 2005-07 -- Les Miles’ first three seasons as the Tigers’ coach. Miles has won 11 or more games in five of his eight seasons in Baton Rouge. Alabama hasn’t had three straight seasons of 11 or more wins since the Bear Bryant era. The Crimson Tide won 11 games in 1977 and in 1978 and then won 12 games in 1979. They captured the national championship in both 1978 and 1979. The Gamecocks had never won 11 games in a season until 2011, and had only won more than eight games in a season twice in school history prior to Steve Spurrier’s arrival in 2005. Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are the only three schools in the SEC that have never won 11 or more games in a season.

Comparing Nick Saban to Bear Bryant

June, 24, 2013

"College Football Live" examines why it might not be crazy to compare Nick Saban's accomplishments to those of Bear Bryant.

SEC numbers to know in countdown

May, 21, 2013
In conjunction with the 100-day countdown to the start of the 2013 college football season, ESPN's Stats & Info group has put together 100 numbers to know.

Not surprisingly, there are more than a few that might be of interest to SEC fans:

1. (Preseason No. 1): Who will be this year's AP Preseason No. 1? Whoever it is must overcome recent history. Only two teams in the BCS era have won the national title after being ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll, 1999 Florida State and 2004 USC.

6. (Bear Bryant's national titles): No coach in the poll era (since 1936) has won more national championships than Alabama's Bear Bryant's six. In fact, no other coach has more than four. Nick Saban will go for his fifth this season.

7. (Jadeveon Clowney): Jersey number of South Carolina's freakish defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney, the top NFL prospect in college football and a serious threat to become the first defensive player to win the Heisman since Charles Woodson in 1997.

8. (SEC dominance continues?): Conference goes for its eighth straight BCS title.

9. (Nine-game SEC schedule?): Much has been made of the Big Ten announcing a nine-game conference schedule as part of its expansion. Though the SEC remains steadfast in its adherence to an eight-game conference slate, many people (including Nick Saban) have shown preference for adding a game as well.

20. (Aaron Murray touchdown passes needed): Aaron Murray needs 20 more touchdown passes to surpass Danny Wuerffel's SEC career record.

21. (Johnny Manziel rushing touchdowns): Heisman winner Johnny Manziel rushed for 21 touchdowns last season, second most by a quarterback in the FBS. Collin Klein had 23.

28. (Ole Miss recruits): Players signed by Ole Miss in its 2013 class. The Rebels landed two of the top five players in the ESPN 150 rankings, including the No. 1 overall recruit, DE Robert Nkemdiche.

38. (George Rogers' jersey number): South Carolina RB George Rogers wore No. 38 while amassing 1,894 yards and 14 scores en route to winning the 1980 Heisman Trophy.

55. (Alabama ESPN 150 recruits): The Tide have signed 55 players ranked in the ESPN 150 over the past five seasons, most of any school.

59. (Billy Cannon wins Heisman): LSU HB Billy Cannon won the Heisman Trophy in 1959 and led the Bayou Bengals to the Sugar Bowl. He remains the only Heisman winner in LSU history.

60. (Bowl appearances for Alabama): The Crimson Tide have appeared in 60 bowl games, the most in FBS history. Bama is 34-22-3 with one vacated victory in those games and has won four straight.

63. (SEC players drafted): The SEC has big holes to fill after a record 63 players were drafted in the 2013 NFL draft. No other conference had more than 31 players drafted.

66. (The Head Ball Coach as player): Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy in 1966. He'70. (Percentage of Texas A&M's offense accounted by Johnny Manziel): Johnny Football accounted for more than 70 percent of Texas A&M's total offense en route to shattering the SEC record for total offense offense in a season.ll try to coach Jadeveon Clowney to the award and become the 12th head man to coach multiple Heisman winners.

82. (Bear's finale): Bear Bryant's legendary career came to a close in 1982 when he announced his retirement. His final game was a 21-15 win over Illinois in the Liberty Bowl, his 323rd career win. A month later, Bryant died of a massive heart attack.

85. (Bo knows): In 1985, Bo Jackson won the Heisman Trophy, the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and was named the SEC Player of the Year. In that year, he also batted .401 with 17 home runs and 43 RBIs.

89. (Scary punt return): On Halloween night in 1959, with top-ranked LSU trailing third-ranked Ole Miss 3-0, LSU's Billy Cannon returned a punt 89 yards to give the Tigers a 7-3 win. It was perhaps the most famous punt return in NCAA history. Cannon would go on to win the Heisman Trophy that season.

92. (SEC changes college football landscape): In 1992, the SEC became the first conference to showcase a championship game. The first game was Dec. 5, 1992, when Alabama used a late Antonio Langham interception return to seal a 28-21 win over Florida and go on to win the national championship a few weeks later.

98. (The BCS is born): 1998 was the first season for the BCS, which will conclude in 2013. Tennessee won the first BCS national title in 1998.

SEC lunch links

April, 22, 2013
Making the rounds in the SEC on a Monday:
We at the SEC blog want to express our deepest condolences to the Mal Moore family and everybody at Alabama over Moore’s passing Saturday at age 73.

Moore was so much a part of that football program and athletic department and, really, one of the few remaining links at the university to Paul "Bear" Bryant.

His role in Nick Saban’s hiring and jump-starting the Alabama football program back on track will forever be remembered by Crimson Tide fans.

On a personal note, two of my most enduring memories of Moore came right after Alabama won its first national championship under Saban, in 2009, and last season after Alabama won its third title in four seasons under Saban.

We were standing just outside the Alabama locker room at the Rose Bowl following the Tide’s 37-21 victory over Texas, and somebody asked Moore if he felt like the $4 million a year contract that the university had given Saban was a good investment.

Moore beamed. “Hell yeah!” he said in his familiar drawl.

He then giddily offered that a statue of Saban would be going up on Alabama’s famed Walk of Champions, just adjacent to Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Last season, an emotional Moore stood on the field at Sun Life Stadium in Miami following the Tide’s 42-14 dismantling of Notre Dame and struggled to find the right words for what it meant to him and the entire Alabama family to be along for such a historic ride.

“It never gets old, and the best part is seeing all these great Alabama people soaking it all up,” said Moore, his smile as wide as the gaping holes the Alabama offensive line punched in the Irish defense that night.

Seeing the immense pride draped across Moore’s face in both of those instances is something I’ll never forget.

His love for Alabama was legendary. The same goes for the way he so selflessly and humbly served his beloved alma mater for more than 50 years.

Memorable SEC upsets

March, 28, 2013
In honor of Florida Gulf Coast's stunning run in the NCAA basketball tournament, I started thinking back to some of the biggest SEC football upsets of my lifetime.

The mid- to late-1970s is about as far back as I go, but I’ve gone back and picked out some of the more memorable ones over the past 30 or 35 years.

These are all SEC vs. SEC matchups, and I’ll rank the top 5 as well as five more that just missed the cut. I’ll come back later Thursday with a few more, including some upsets in non-conference and bowl games.

Here goes:

1. Mississippi State 6, Alabama 3 (1980): The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide had won 28 straight (and an SEC-record 27 straight conference games) and were heavily favored against the unranked Bulldogs. But Mississippi State played suffocating defense that day in Jackson, Miss., and snuffed out a late Alabama drive. The Crimson Tide had moved to the Bulldogs’ 4, but were out of timeouts. Alabama quarterback Don Jacobs took the snap and started down the line of scrimmage to the right side. Mississippi State’s Tyrone Keys shot through and tackled Jacobs, forcing a fumble that Billy Jackson recovered to seal one of the greatest wins in Mississippi State history. Alabama’s wishbone attack, which had been averaging more than 300 yards per game, mustered just 116 rushing yards against the Mississippi State defense. The Crimson Tide lost four fumbles in the game. And in a classy gesture afterward, Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant visited the Mississippi State locker room to congratulate the Bulldogs on the win.

2. LSU 17, Alabama 13 (1993): The No. 5 Crimson Tide had gone 31 straight games without a loss and were coming off an unbeaten national championship season. Inexplicably, they lost at home to an unranked LSU team that had lost five of its first seven games that season and finished 5-6. The Tigers were a 24-point underdog that day and in the midst of their fifth straight losing season. Alabama starting quarterback Jay Barker was out with an injured shoulder, and the Tide -- using three different quarterbacks -- threw four second-half interceptions. Coach Gene Stallings finally went to David Palmer at quarterback late in the third quarter, and “The Deuce” directed the Tide on a pair of scoring drives. But LSU held on for the win, and Stallings said afterward that he waited too long to go to Palmer, who was normally a receiver.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
AP Photo/Phil SandlinTim Tebow bows his head in dejection after his No. 4 Gators lost 31-30 at home against Mississippi on Sept. 27, 2008.
3. Ole Miss 31, Florida 30 (2008): The Rebels would go on to have a very good season, but ventured into the Swamp that day as a 22-point underdog with losses to Wake Forest and Vanderbilt during the first month of the season. Nobody gave them a chance. The Gators were ranked No. 4 and riding high with Tim Tebow running the show. But the Rebels stuffed him on fourth-and-short late to pull off an improbable road win. The game is best remembered for Tebow’s emotional speech afterward, when he promised that nobody would work harder than him and his teammates the rest of the season. The Gators would go on to win their next 22 games in a row, including the 2008 national championship.

4. Auburn 23, Georgia 23 (1994): Even though it wasn’t a loss, it sure felt like one for No. 3 Auburn, which had its 20-game winning streak under Terry Bowden stopped. The Bulldogs were unranked and had lost at home to Vanderbilt a few weeks earlier. But they rallied from 14 points down on the road thanks to a couple of Eric Zeier touchdown passes and survived a missed 44-yard field goal attempt by Auburn’s Matt Hawkins with 13 seconds to play. That was Ray Goff’s next-to-last season at Georgia, which finished 6-4-1 and didn’t play in a bowl game. It didn’t get any better the next week for Auburn. The Tigers, who were on NCAA probation, lost to Alabama.

5. Alabama 9, Tennessee 6 (1990): The Vols were ranked No. 3, coming off a 45-3 demolition of Florida and very much in the national title picture. Alabama had started the season with three straight losses, the first season with Stallings as coach, and was unranked entering the game. But Alabama’s defense stole the show that day before a stunned crowd at Neyland Stadium and shut down Tennessee’s high-powered offense. With the game tied at 6-6, the Vols were able to get into a position for a 50-yard field goal attempt with 1:35 to play, but Alabama’s Stacy Harrison blocked it. The ball scooted more than 20 yards the other way to the Tennessee 37, and Phillip Doyle won it for the Crimson Tide with a 47-yard field goal on the last play of the game to make it five in a row against the Vols.

The five that just missed the cut:

Ole Miss 22, Alabama 12 (1988): Yep, it's the infamous brick through the window game. An irate fan tossed a brick through the office window of Alabama coach Bill Curry after the Rebels stunned the No. 12-ranked Tide in Tuscaloosa. It was Ole Miss’ first win ever against Alabama in the state of Alabama, and spoiled the dedication of the new Paul “Bear” Bryant Museum. Alabama didn’t complete a pass that day.

Alabama 17, Auburn 15 (1984): The Alabama fans refer to it as the “Wrong Way Bo” Iron Bowl. Auburn coach Pat Dye elected to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 late in the fourth quarter, but Bo Jackson went the wrong way on the play. Alabama’s Rory Turner forced Brent Fullwood out of bounds on the sweep, and the Tide held on to beat the No. 11-ranked Tigers and knock them out of the Sugar Bowl. It was a sweet end for Alabama to its first losing season since 1957.

LSU 31, Tennessee 20 (2001): The No. 2-ranked Vols were coming off a huge win at Florida and poised to go to the Rose Bowl to face Miami for the national championship, but backup quarterback Matt Mauck rallied the Tigers in the second half after filling in for the injured Rohan Davey and gave Nick Saban his first of two SEC titles in Baton Rouge.

Georgia 24, Florida 3 (1985): The Bulldogs romped past the No. 1-ranked Gators with freshman running back backs Keith Henderson and Tim Worley both rushing for 100 yards. It was the only game Florida lost all season. The Gators were ineligible to play in the Sugar Bowl because of NCAA sanctions, but finished No. 5 in the final Associated Press poll.

Arkansas 25, Tennessee 24 (1992): The Vols were ranked No. 4 and had already beaten Florida, Georgia and LSU. The Hogs opened that season, their first in the SEC, by losing to The Citadel, resulting in the firing of Jack Crowe as coach. Joe Kines took over as interim coach and guided a 1-4 Arkansas team to a stunning comeback win against the heavily favored Vols in Knoxville. Todd Wright won it for the Hogs with a 41-yard field goal with two seconds left.
They don't make athletic directors like Mal Moore anymore. The modern athletic director is a guy whose favorite athletic gear is a deposit slip. He climbs the ladder of "development," the euphemism for fundraising. He has to hire a search firm to hire a coach, because he didn't coach himself.

Moore, whose ill health dictated that he step aside Wednesday as the Alabama athletic director after 13 years, has been none of that. Well, check that. Moore could raise money, as they say down South, like nobody's bidness. The university has spent more than $200 million on new and expanded athletic facilities during Moore's tenure.

All of that started with Moore calling the big wallets and saying in his soft Crenshaw County drawl, "We sure could use your help."

But buildings aren't the reason that Moore succeeded. They are the results. Moore succeeded because no man or woman, living or dead, cares more about the University of Alabama than he.

Moore serves as the strongest sinew connecting Alabama football today with the Bear Bryant Era. For 46 of the past 55 years, Moore has served as a student-athlete, assistant coach or administrator at Alabama.

Think of it -- Moore has won 10 national championship rings as a player (1961), assistant coach (1964-65-73-78-79-92) and boss (2009-11-12). That takes care of his fingers. When Moore recovers from his lung ailment and begins his tenure as special assistant to the university president, Dr. Judy Bonner, he can begin on his toes.

Moore could be as cautious as he was courtly. What he lacked in flash he made up for with sheer doggedness, having learned his work ethic from the master, Bryant. Moore succeeded because on his fourth attempt at hiring a football coach, he got it spectacularly right.

For Ivan Maisel's full column, click here.

Did you know? Notre Dame vs. Alabama

January, 4, 2013
We started this off last week. Here are some more nuggets courtesy of our friends at ESPN Stats and Info.
  • Notre Dame and Alabama have the most poll national championships since the Associated Press began its weekly poll in 1936. ESPN has made a policy of recognizing only poll-era national championships (since 1936). Both programs claim other national titles in the pre-AP era, but those are more difficult to legitimize, since there were several groups naming national champions back then, and hardly anyone watched teams from other regions of the country. The two teams have also met in bowl games that had national championship implications. Notre Dame beat Alabama in the 1973 Sugar Bowl to win the AP National Title. However, Alabama still won the UPI National title since it crowned its champion before bowl games were played. The next season, Notre Dame beat Alabama in the Orange Bowl to prevent Alabama for winning another national title. In all, Notre Dame and Alabama have played six times with the Irish holding a 5-1 edge. The two teams haven’t met since 1987.
  • Having already won in 2009 and 2011, Alabama is trying to win its third national championship in four years, which has been accomplished only twice in the poll era. Nebraska did it under Tom Osborne in 1994, 1995 and 1997, but the last of those titles was only in the coaches’ poll. The lone team to win three AP national championships in a four-year span was Notre Dame under Frank Leahy in 1946, ’47 and ’49. In addition, AJ McCarron and the Crimson Tide are trying to become the first program to win back-to-back BCS championships. Three previous reigning champs have returned to the title game, but all three lost in their quest to repeat. McCarron will also try to become the first quarterback to win consecutive BCS national championships, something that Chris Weinke (Florida State), Ken Dorsey (Miami FL), and Matt Leinart (USC) failed to do.
  • Alabama is trying to win the SEC’s seventh consecutive national championship. Prior to this stretch, no conference had ever won more than three in a row. It would be the ninth BCS title won by the SEC. All the other conferences have six combined and no other conference has more than two.
  • Alabama’s Nick Saban is the only coach with more than two BCS titles and is one of just 10 coaches with three or more national championships in the poll era. A win on Jan. 7 will put him in some very elite company, as only three coaches have won at least four national titles. The names: Bear Bryant, Frank Leahy and John McKay. Because Nick Saban spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons with the Miami Dolphins, he is trying to win his fourth national title in his past eight seasons as a college head coach. Only Frank Leahy has managed to win four in even a 10-year span.
  • Four different coaches have been responsible for Notre Dame's eight national championships in the poll era (since 1936). All four of those coaches captured their first national title in their third season at Notre Dame. Brian Kelly is currently in his third season in South Bend.
  • Notre Dame is third all-time in wins with 865 while Alabama is seventh with 826. Both teams also rank in the top seven in win percentage. The two teams met head-to-head six times with Notre Dame winning five of them. However, they haven't met since 1987, a 37-6 Notre Dame win in South Bend.
  • The last time an SEC team lost a national championship game to a team from outside the conference was when Nebraska beat Florida in the Fiesta Bowl to end the 1995 season (’96 Fiesta Bowl). Since that time, the SEC has won eight straight bowl games against “outsiders” with a national championship on the line. (doesn’t count Alabama’s win over LSU last year)
  • This will be Saban’s ninth championship game as a head coach. He is 7-1 in the previous eight (3-0 in BCS title games, 4-1 in SEC title games). The only loss was to Florida in the 2008 SEC Championship.
  • Notre Dame is 6-0 in road/neutral games this season with the closest one being a nine-point win over USC. Even though the Irish were also 6-0 at home, five of those six games were decided by seven points or fewer. Alabama has only two losses over the last two years, and both were in Tuscaloosa. The Tide have won 13 consecutive games away from home, which is the longest such streak in the FBS.
  • The BCS championship games have been split seven apiece between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the final standings, but No. 2 has won seven of the last 10.
  • These are the nation’s top two scoring defenses, with Notre Dame allowing 10.3 points per game, and Alabama allowing 10.7. Last year’s national championship game was also a matchup of the top two scoring defenses, as Bama beat LSU, 21-0. Prior to that, there hadn’t been such a meeting in the postseason since the 1994 season.
  • The Tide have scored 21 points or more in 44 of their last 45 games. That’s three more than any other team in the FBS over this span.
  • No sophomore or freshman starting QB had ever won the BCS National Championship until Alabama's McCarron did it last year as a sophomore. Now, Notre Dame redshirt freshman Everett Golson has his chance.
  • In 2007, Alabama went 7-6 in Saban’s first season, while Notre Dame sunk to a historic low, finishing 3-9. In 2008, Saban took the Tide to the SEC title game, while the Irish continued their mediocrity, going 7-6. Entering the 2012 season, these two teams couldn’t have been more opposite in terms of success over the previous four years.
  • This will be the first time since 2006 that Notre Dame finishes a season in the AP Top 25, so it’s not surprising that the Irish weren’t ranked in this year’s preseason AP poll. They are the first preseason unranked team to reach a BCS championship game, and they are the first preseason unranked team to finish the regular season as AP No. 1 since BYU in 1984.
  • The last preseason unranked team to win a national championship was Georgia Tech in the coaches’ poll in 1990. The last team to do it in the AP poll (as Notre Dame can only do this season) was BYU in 1984.

Did you know?

November, 9, 2012
It's that time when we check out news and notes from the SEC and ESPN Stats & Information:
  • The Texas A&M at Alabama matchup is one of the two most efficient offenses in the SEC. The Aggies lead the SEC in highest average points per drive (3.09 / 336 points in 110 offensive drives) with the Tide second at 3.07 (332 in 108) points per drive. The Tide leads the SEC in overall scoring-efficiency percentage (50.9 percent / 55 scoring drives out of 108 total drives) and the Aggies are second at 49.6 percent (60 of 121). In touchdown scoring efficiency, the Aggies lead the SEC at 40.5 percent (49 TD drives out of 121 overall drives) while the Tide are second at 38.9 percent (42 of 108).
  • The Vanderbilt at Ole Miss game is the fourth most competitive series in the SEC since 2000, with an average winning margin of 11.17 points per game. Seven of the 12 games in the series since 2000 have been decided by nine-points-or-less.
  • At its current pace, SEC offenses are passing for more yards per game (227.7) since the 2001 season (245.1). Since 1992, the 227.7 average would be fourth highest in SEC behind 2001 (245.1), 1997 (234.7) and 1998 (232.4). Passing is accounting for 57.5 percent of SEC offenses this season while running (168.5 yards per game) is 42.5 percent.
  • There have been 215 scoring drives in the SEC this season that have been less than two minutes compared to 59 scoring drives of more than five minutes.
  • Of the 22 offensive drives that have been for 15-plays-or-more, eight have ended in touchdowns, nine in field goals, two in missed field goals, one in a turnover and two on downs.
  • Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton has 14 plays of more than 20 yards this season against FBS teams with winning records. That total is third in the nation (Austin Hill, Arizona, 1st with 17; Terrance Williams, Baylor, second with 16).
  • The SEC had the top three in sacks against teams that are ranked in the AP Top 25-- Damontre Moore, Texas A&M, 1st with 6.5 sacks; Corey Lemonier, Auburn, 2nd with 5.0 sacks; Jarvis Jones, Georgia, 3rd with 4.0 sacks.

Arkansas at South Carolina: These teams have played every year since they came into the league in 1992, with Arkansas leading the series, 13-7. In games played in Columbia, the series is tied, 5-5.
  • Arkansas has won eight straight games against opponents from the SEC Eastern Division, the longest current interdivisional streak in the SEC and the longest win streak against Eastern Division foes in school history.
  • Arkansas has 17 players who have made their first collegiate start this season, the most in the SEC and tied for seventh-highest in the nation.
  • Connor Shaw is 14-3 as a starting Gamecock QB, which, at 82.4 percent, is the highest winning percentage for a Carolina starting QB since 1971.
Missouri at Tennessee: This is the first meeting between the two teams.
  • Tennessee has won eight consecutive November games against SEC opponents at Neyland Stadium since a 17-12 win over Kentucky on Nov. 25, 2006. The Vols have won eight consecutive home games in the month of November, dating to a 28-10 win over Kentucky on Nov. 29, 2008.
  • Mizzou is 3-0 this year in games which it gains a fourth-quarter turnover, while the Tigers are 0-3 this season when committing a fourth-quarter turnover.
  • T.J. Moe is sixth in Mizzou history with 178 career catches and 8th in career receiving yards with 1,972.
  • Tennessee has scored 42 touchdowns in 2012, 11 more than the 2011 full-season total of 31.
Louisiana-Lafayette at Florida: Florida is 4-0 all-time against the Ragin’ Cajuns. The last meeting was in 1996, when the Gators took a 55-21 decision. In that game, Florida scored four defensive touchdowns.
  • The Gators are 64-22-2 all-time in Homecoming games.
  • Florida has been held under 15 points in each of its past two games, and overall in two seasons under Will Muschamp the Gators have been held under 15 points eight times. Consider that in Urban Meyer's six seasons at Floirda, the Gators were held under 15 points eight times.
  • This season, Florida is plus-11 turnover margin, improving on last season’s minus-12 turnover margin.
  • Through nine games, Florida has outscored its opposition, 138-38, in the second half. The defense is averaging 64.4 yards allowed in the third quarter and 75.8 yards allowed in the fourth.
Texas A&M at Alabama: Alabama leads the series history, 3-1. It’s the first visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the Aggies. The teams played in the 1942 and 1968 Cotton Bowls, in 1985 at Legion Field in Birmingham and 1988 in College Station.
  • Alabama’s Jeremy Shelley is the only kicker in the nation not to miss an extra-point (40-40) or field goal (9-9) this season.
  • The Aggies are 1-10 in games against No. 1 ranked teams, with the lone victory being a 30-26 win over Oklahoma in 2002.
  • A&M has scored first in every game in 2012, and in 14 straight games dating back to 2011.
  • Johnny Manziel has already broken A&M’s record for quarterback rushing yards in a season (922).
  • Manziel is the only player in FBS to average at least 10 yards per rush and 10 yards per pass attempt in those situations, and his 11 touchdowns responsible for in those situations are three more than any other FBS player. He has gained 634 rushing yards on scrambles. That is 182 more yards scrambling than Denard Robinson, Braxton Miller and Collin Klein have combined. Manziel has scrambled for 28 first downs this season, including 18 first downs on third down.
  • Manziel is completing 71.8 percent of his passes on first down this season, one of only six players to complete at least 70 percent of his passes on first down this season (min. 140 attempts).
  • Alabama is 21-6 against the AP Top 25 during the last four seasons and 12-4 against AP Top 10 teams.
  • Alabama QB AJ McCarron has gone 204 pass attempts this season and 289 dating back to last season without an interception. Since 2000, he is the only player in FBS with at least 25 career touchdown passes (38) and as few as five interceptions.
  • The Tide defense averages 5.44 three-and-outs per game and its 45.4 percent rate is second highest in the nation.
  • The Aggies and Tide have shared three head coaches in their histories -- Bear Bryant (A&M 1954-57; Alabama 1958-82), Gene Stallings (A&M 1965-71; Alabama 1990-96) and Dennis Franchione (A&M 2003-07; Alabama 2001-02).
Georgia at Auburn: Georgia leads the South’s Oldest Rivalry, 54-53-8. The teams have played every year since 1944. Georgia has won seven of the last 10 matchups in the series.
  • The Bulldogs defense ranks third nationally forcing 50 three-and-outs, an average of 5.5 per game.
  • Auburn is 97-139-6 all-time against ranked opponents.
  • Auburn is 3-for-11 passing for 14 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in the red zone this season. That's a passer-efficiency mark of 1.6.
  • Georgia has 31 plays of 30 yards or more this season, tied for third most in FBS. They had 23 in all of last season. The only game that the Bulldogs did not have at least one such play was in their only loss of the season at South Carolina.
  • Auburn’s Onterio McCalebb is just the second player in SEC history to tally more than 2,000 yards rushing (2,469), 1,000 kick return yards (1,246) and 500 receiving yards (528).
  • Georgia’s Todd Gurley is fifth in school history for most rushing yards by a freshman (857).
  • Auburn has blocked three field goals this season, two by Angelo Blackson and one by Corey Lemonier.
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss: Ole Miss leads the series 47-37-2. In games played in Oxford, the Rebels lead, 22-5. Ole Miss has won 13 of the past 19 meetings dating back to 1992.
  • Ole Miss has already surpassed last year’s total number of wins, points, touchdowns and yards.
  • Vanderbilt has won its past three games. The last time Vandy have won four in a row was in 2008.
  • Ole Miss has scored in 28 of its 30 red zone trips (93.3 percent), which is tied for fourth-best in the SEC and second in the SEC. Ole Miss is the only SEC team without a turnover in the red zone this year.
Mississippi State at LSU: LSU leads the series 69-33-3.
  • In games played in Baton Rouge, the Tigers lead, 46-18-1. LSU has won 10 straight in the series and 19 of the last 20 meetings.
  • LSU faces a Top 25 team for the fifth straight game -- a first in school history.
  • The Mississippi State offense has scored 277 points through its first nine games, its most through the first nine contests since the 2000 squad scored 307 points.
  • Bulldogs QB Tyler Russell is one of seven QBs nationally with 15-plus passing TDs and three or fewer interceptions this season.
  • LSU’s Les Miles is 18-1 in games following a loss. Last time LSU lost back-to-back games under Miles was in 2008 (Ole Miss, Arkansas). LSU hasn’t lost back-to-back games in Tiger Stadium since 2001 (Florida, Ole Miss).
  • The Bulldogs have lost 21 straight games against AP Top-10 teams. Their last win against an AP Top-10 team came against third-ranked Florida in 2000.

High stakes for Spurrier's return to Swamp

October, 18, 2012
For those who watched Steve Spurrier take Florida football to unprecedented heights in the 1990s and, in the process, change the way football is played in the SEC, it's still surreal to see him on the visitor's sideline in the Swamp.

Yes, this will be his fourth trip to Gainesville as South Carolina's coach, and the novelty isn't nearly what it once was.

But this is the Head Ball Coach. He is as much a part of Gator lore as the Gator chomp. He won a Heisman Trophy as Florida's quarterback in 1966 and brought the Gators their first SEC championship (six of them before he was finished) and their first national championship in 12 memorable seasons as coach of his alma mater from 1990-2001.

The Swamp was born under Spurrier, literally and figuratively. He coined the nickname for Ben Hill Griffin Stadium after his second season at Florida.

Spurrier's explanation was simple: "Only Gators get out alive."

But Spurrier didn't just name the Swamp. He's the one who put the magic into it with a 68-5 home record as the Gators' coach.

[+] EnlargeSteve Spurrier
AP Photo/John RaouxOn Steve Spurrier's last visit to the Swamp, the Gamecocks clinched their first-ever trip to the SEC championship game.
He is trying to bring that same magic to South Carolina, and even though he won't say it, you know winning this game Saturday against the No. 2 Gators would rank up there among his favorites.

A win would put South Carolina in the driver's seat in the East Division, and it would further validate the No. 7 Gamecocks as one of the elite teams in this league.

Spurrier won the last time he was in the Swamp, clinching the Gamecocks' first-ever trip to the SEC championship game in 2010. He was given a victory ride on his players' shoulders.

It was the kind of scene that made you rub your eyes and wonder if it was all real.

Spurrier, in his vintage oh-gosh style, insists that going back to the Swamp as the opposing coach isn't that big of a deal.

"I don't think it's much of a storyline now that it's eight years that we've played each other, the fourth time I've been down there coaching," Spurrier said. "I guess it is a little unusual to be on the other team when you come into the ballpark and your name's on the wall up there, but I think everybody handles it very well. It's our team against their team.

"This is a game between the players. As coaches, we try to direct them a little bit, but these players are going to pretty much decide who's going to win this thing."

The reality is that most of Florida's current players were too young to remember seeing Spurrier's Gators pitch it around the ballpark in the Fun 'n' Gun days and win four straight SEC championships from 1993-96, a dizzying run that culminated with a national championship.

As Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel noted this week, he was more worried about watching cartoons at the time.

What Driskel does know is that Spurrier remains an icon.

"I drive by his statue every day," said Driskel, referring to Spurrier's statue that sits just outside the Swamp alongside the statues of the Gators' other two Heisman Trophy winners, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow. "He's definitely a Gator great, but it's not really anything that's going to bother us. Our players here didn't play for him or weren't here when he was around. So it's definitely bigger for the media and the fans."

Maybe so, but the guy who'll be on the Florida sideline Saturday doesn't need any refresher on the impact Spurrier has had on Florida, the SEC and college football.

Will Muschamp was a player at Georgia in the early 1990s when Spurrier was just starting his championship run at Florida.

"Being an SEC guy and growing up in this part of the country and being a huge fan of the Southeastern Conference, there are really two coaches that come to the forefront of your mind as far as what they have done for this league, and that would be Bear Bryant and Steve Spurrier," said Muschamp, who owns a deep respect for Spurrier and what he has meant to Florida.

There's no question that Spurrier has already etched his rightful place on the Mount Rushmore of SEC coaches.

Bryant is up there too, and sculptors are quickly gathering up pictures of Alabama coach Nick Saban. They're the only two coaches in history to win SEC championships at two schools.

If Spurrier is going to have any chance of joining them in that exclusive club, this is probably a game he needs to win Saturday. He'll be 68 in April and isn't going to coach forever.

While Spurrier will always be a Gator at heart, he is rooting for Florida to finish second in the East this season.

It's only fitting that perhaps the climactic game in that race will be played at the Swamp, where only Gators -- and maybe Gamecocks -- get out alive.



Thursday, 11/27
Friday, 11/28
Saturday, 11/29